Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Mambo Kings

On Wednesday night in front of an enthusiastic audience of hepcats and cool kittens packed into Barbican Cinema 2, I finally had the chance to meet with Italian music journalist and broadcaster Francesco Adinolfi, author of the book Mondo Exotica: Sound Visions Obsessions of the Cocktail Generation. The event was promoted as ‘Mambo Italiano: Exploring Exotica’, and we were sharing the bill with Mario Bava’s Danger:Diabolik – probably one of the greatest films ever to emerge from the entire history of the Seventh Art. We talked about the lure of the exotic for an intense but all too brief half hour before the movie rolled and Diabolik began his groovy 1960s reign of futuristic terror. I was intensely grateful for Francesco’s high-speed delivery and quick responses, developed during the run of his ‘Pop Corner’ show on Rai Radio 2, packing together dozens of tunes with astute political comments and texts sent in by his enthusiastic listeners all in an energetic thirty minutes.

Fortunately Resonance FM was on hand to record our conversation for a forthcoming programme on exotic easy listening, cold war social fantasies, sixties pop culture and the politics of what Francesco described as the ‘degree zero rebellion’ that would take place in the millennium fold between 1997 and 2001, when kids started listening to Martin Denny, Yma Sumac, Arthur Lyman Frank Sinatra and Esquivel while music’s capacity for ‘authenticity’ sank deeper and deeper into question.

Thanks to Francesco’s lovely wife Cristina, the Ken Hollings blog is able to bring you some pictures from the event. The top one captures KH and Francesco Adinolfi on stage and in full flow. The one below shows KH, Francesco and event organizer Jay Clifton of the Hammet Story Agency sharing a quiet moment just before the doors open. Also present but not shown were crime novelist Cathi Unsworth and the writer Harriet Vyner , author of Groovy Bob, an amazing oral biography of gallery owner Robert Fraser. They are currently working with Jay Clifton on a Barbican event early in January 2009, themed around some of the darker forces shaping what painter Richard Hamilton characterized as ‘Swingeing London'. That one will definitely be worthy of your attention.

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